Suburban Soliloquy #63

The Blizzard of 2003

The good news is, my employers have decided to expand coverage on the late shifts from two technicians each to three. As of the third week of February, I found myself gratefully restored to the graveyard shift, beginning at midnight. And there was the snow.

A powerful wind was slamming the two outer walls of our bedroom, beating the house with no sense of rhythm. It was a great contrast to seeing Ms Keogh, my more significant other, at rest, asleep, tucked under a pile of blankets. Long ago I stopped complaining or worrying about the weather, a popular pastime where I work. Listening to the wind flogging our wood-framed house, it seemed in a jolly mood. The wind was laughing and cheering, thumping our home with uncontained joy. I extracted myself from a warm bed, dressed and ejected myself from the still house into a blustery world of snow. At least it wasn't so deep that I would have to shovel. On any other morning I would have greeted the cold with discontent, it being an ordeal to drag myself through traffic, but this was my last week on day tour.

The drive to work along Interstate 95 during daylight hours is rich with views. First the highway passes between broad fields. Seeing those snow-clad fields tugged at my genetic memory. It had my Mongolian blood stampeding through my arteries. To be racing across the snowy landscape is my birthright. Well, if I chose to believe my mother's story that sometime during our ancestor's sojourn on the Steppes of the Ukraine there was an allegedly uninvited influx of Mongolian blood.

I did feel the part of a Mongolian horseman during my motorcycling days. My body design seems to have as its intended purpose the ability to securely straddle a horse. A small horse, to be sure. Is it not the reason I have short legs, yet powerful thighs? This stocky body is meant for strength and warmth, and to wear cashmere.

As the highway approaches the Delaware River, it divides the woods. Traffic was backed up that morning after the first major snowfall. Patches of the road were icy. The excited wind was buffeting the car, launching whirlwinds of powdered snow. Among the tree trunks the snow was exploding, the ground was on fire, the forest filled with swirling white smoke. There were moments when waves of loose snow swept across the highway causing brief fogs. I watched the clouds of flakes tumble and reel over the stark highway from the protected cabin of my car while listening to Wagner. Wagner was the right music for the enthusiastic weather.

That week at the office, Dave - one of four Daves in our office - built a snowman with snow he had carried in from outside. It was a traditional design, three large balls of decreasing diameters, twigs for arms, a carrot nose, but it stood only two feet high and was erected in a giant salad bowl to contain the melt. I contributed my old, broken headset to our icy technician. I could enjoy my last week on days knowing it was my last week.

Then the blizzard came. It was my first night back on the graveyard shift, leaving Sunday night to reach work by midnight. The storm had only just begun. I shoveled a path to the car and then cleaned off the car, but I didn't shovel the driveway. Gravity sufficed to pull the car off the inclined driveway despite the few inches of snow.

The drive in was difficult, the roadways slippery, but it wasn't much of a problem because I was the only car on the road. Despite the snow, the view was expansive, the slightest light diffused to form gigantic caverns. Once again on Interstate 95, I was nearing the Delaware River, where the highway cuts through a hill. Ahead, three deer came leaping out of the forest on my left. I slowed. They came down the incline and with graceful strides dashed across the broad highway, two lanes southbound, the wide median strip, and then the two lanes northbound that I was traveling. I slowed almost to a stop and watched the three deer, the leader crowned with antlers. They galloped through my car beams, tossing up bits of snow, and made their way up the incline on my right, back into the forest.

I had parked the car in the lot with the tail towards the wind. I thought by parking in this manner all the snow would build on the car's rear so I wouldn't have a hard time cleaning off the windshield, later. I evidently do not understand the dynamics of snowfall. The hard wind swept the tail of my car clean. The front of my car was buried.

Daylight arrived to reveal an impassable U. S. Route One. The blizzard of 2003 caught three of us, all techs, snowed into the office. The next tour technicians, the clerks, and certainly the management, never made it in. The flat roof of the building creaked under the snow's weight. But in the light of day our view from the office extended beyond the roadway to include Princeton Nursery on the opposite side. We could see the blizzard's beautiful fury.

I was still at work when daylight again dissolved into night. My first night back on my old tour and I worked eighteen hours. When at last I was relieved by another tech, I had to borrow a shovel to free my car from the lot. Although the company had been kind enough to offer me a room in the nearby hotel, I preferred to tackle the twenty-five mile trek back to Ms Keogh, which I accomplished without much hardship, only to get stuck trying to climb my steep driveway. I had to shovel again, to make enough space into which to fit my car. I bathed, we played five hundred rummy at the kitchen table until I was unwound, then I climbed back into bed. I fell into a deep sleep, feeling accomplished, grateful for an eventful day.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the sixty-third in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is now available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"